A group of founders reached out to catch up recently. I’ve known one of the founders for some time now; he contacted me after I did a presentation and we’ve stayed in touch since, syncing every three or four months.
Our last chat was a bit different. He and his founders have been working on a product as a hobby. They built a solution to a problem they saw and have been slowly getting new customers as their time permitted. Recently, potential partners have asked them for help solving a particularly painful problem. Luckily, their product already relieves this pain. They’re realizing this could be huge and an opportunity to build a big business. They just aren’t sure how they should be thinking about funding to capitalize on the opportunity.
We scheduled a quick chat in which they asked pointed questions and I gave candid answers. Because of the preexisting relationship, the conversation was productive and straightforward. I already knew what problem they were trying to solve and how their solution worked. They brought me up to date on the larger opportunity they’ve uncovered.
Preexisting relationships with early-stage investors can be valuable for founders. These founders initially reached out cold, and we built a relationship over time. I was receptive to them because they were self-starting and demonstrated execution (they’d built a product and had a handful of users). When they had questions about a new opportunity, they had a friendly to turn to for help.
If you’re an early founder, consider building relationships with investors before you need them. All investors might not be receptive or responsive, but someone will probably get back to you. An investor friendly can be helpful when you need advice or honest feedback in the clutch.